Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
09/28/2011 - James WhiteI have been downright encouraged to note the response that has appeared to the amazing statements of James McDonald of "Vertical Church" herewherein he basically throws Nicene orthodoxy under the proverbial bus. Here is the paragraph that drew the attention of many:
2: I do not agree that T.D. Jakes is a Modalist.
I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as I find it in Scripture. I believe it is clearly presented but not detailed or nuanced. I believe God is very happy with His Word as given to us and does not wish to update or clarify anything that He has purposefully left opaque. Somethings are stark and immensely clear, such as the deity of Jesus Christ; others are taught but shrouded in mystery, such as the Trinity. I do not trace my beliefs to credal statements that seek clarity on things the Bible clouds with mystery. I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. His website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations. I am looking forward to hearing him explain what he means by that. I am also excited to hear him state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring reformed world. I believe T.D. Jakes shows immense humility by being willing to step outside his own circles to interact with brothers in Christ who may see certain things differently. Getting brothers together who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone but normally don’t interact, is what the Elephant Room is all about. Talking about issues that separate with grace and truth is what the Elephant Room is all about. We are greatly honored that T.D. Jakes has agreed to participate.
Now I know that "emergent" folks have an odd relationship with history---they love to drag stuff out of history, without its attendant context, as if it is "new," but when it comes to accepting that stand on the shoulders of giants and that there are things that have simply been settled in the past, they rebel and want to put everything "back on the table." Evidently, the very definition of modalism, and the meaning of Nicea, is "up for grabs" as well, at least for these folks.
Briefly, there is no question that the language of Jakes is modalistic, as anyone who has been listening to our review of the teachings of Oneness teacher Roger Perkins can attest. For McDonald, it seems that the history of Oneness teachings and creedal statements over the past century or so can be disregarded for a "fresh discussion." How any progress could ever be made in defining truth (or exposing error) in the light of the never-ending, never-concluding "discussion," I do not know. As with many other groups, it is simply absurd to think that given the definition of the Trinity (which has sort of been around for a very long time now) that specific rejection of that terminology coupled with a substitution of something else is anything other than a rejection of the Trinity itself. The idea that we get to "tweak" the definition today just because we are "modern" and (implicit assumption) so much more with it than those old fogies back then is a glorious example of modernistic hubris, one that sadly shows no understanding of what took place before, during, and after Nicea.
But even more importantly than the tweaking of Modalism so that it gets a place at the table is the attitude McDonald has displayed toward the Nicene definition. He says he does not trace his beliefs to credal statements. Really? If by that he means creeds are always subject to the higher authority of Scripture, of course. But this is where you fall off the other side of the narrow path and rather than believing in sola scriptura, you end up with something much less, and in fact, much different. Nicea's authority comes from its fidelity to Scripture. It does not stand alone as a new revelation, and it survived simply because it is, despite all the arguments to the contrary, the consistent, harmonious testimony of divine writ. To throw its authority into the dustbin of history in the service of some kind of "emergent" attitude is not only to display an astoundingly arrogant hubris, it is to show deep disrespect to those who fought, and some who died, in defense of its truth. And for what? For some kind of post-modern feel-goodism that cannot even recognize modalism when it is standing right in front of you. A truly educational example of just how far the emergent movement is willing to go in pursuit of its ultimately destructive goals.
Allahu Akbar and Omega Ministries?
One of the marks of spiritual maturity is the ability to establish priorities and guidelines as to what is most important, what is next in importance, etc., down to what is "adiaphora," that which does not truly impact one's faith, but can be discussed and disagreed upon within the body of Christ. In our fallen world, it is even important to be able to disagree on issues that we would not call adiaphora without completely breaking the bond of unity of our confession of faith in Christ. For example, I have close communion with brothers and sisters who disagree with me, strongly at times, on the subjects and meaning of baptism. But we stand shoulder to shoulder on the gospel. Some can not do this. Others take the issue far more deeply into the definitional doctrines, holding communion with those who deny fundamental truths such as the gospel or even the Trinity, resulting in great confusion and an overthrow of the faith. Balance is vital, and it is difficult to maintain. None of us manage it perfectly.
I have invited a particular group of folks to blog with me at the A&O blog. Some are Baptists. Some are Presbyterians. All are Reformed soteriologically speaking. I have been very grateful for all of their efforts, and I think my readers have been blessed by their contributions. Because they are all different, their articles vary greatly in scope and content and even, at times, viewpoint. I do not ask that every article be sent to me for "approval." I do not have time to play Bob the Policeman. I chose folks who know me, know my books, know my debates, and hence would know the proper parameters for what would "fit" on the blog.
Evidently, some feel that if any of my bloggers express a viewpoint or opinion, even if it is posted on their personal blogs and not at the A&O blog, that I am somehow responsible for it. This "your friends all have to walk lockstep with you" idea is a common one, sadly---and, if it is followed through rigorously, results in folks who are very, very much alone in the cyber realm, and probably in the "real world" as well. Recently Jamin Hubner has raised issues relating to a simple question: is the modern secular state of Israel religiously and theologically significant? Is it "Israel" as in the Israel of Scripture, or Romans 11? And if it is not, is it open to criticism? He is concerned about the strength of the movement, mainly amongst American evangelicals, that has granted to Israel not only a theological position it does not actually hold, but which precludes even the slightest mention of criticism of a secular state. Now, I am not going to re-hash everything here, but he has even been accused of being a "shill for Hamas" due to sources he has cited and issues he has raised (which seems to me to provide strong evidence of the need to raise such issues and challenge the knee-jerk reactions of many in the Evangelical community as a whole). While he has sought fair and non-emotional responses to questions he has raised, his requests have, in the main, fallen upon deaf ears, for I see no evidence that his critics really want to have a give-and-take.
In any case, this morning Steve Hays of Triablogue pulled the trigger on a blog article titled "Allahu Akbar and Omega Ministries." His target? Something posted on the A&O blog? No, something posted on Jamin Hubner's blog. So immediately we have to challenge what is really being said here: let's say I disagree with Jamin on specifics relating to events between, say, World War I and World War II and their interpretation in reference to the incredibly complex and convoluted political and ethnic situation in the Middle East. Am I supposed to have, as a condition for contribution to the A&O blog, a set of rules which includes agreeing with James White on, well, everything? How could I have any Presbyterians posting on my blog then? How could I have any postmils or even historic pre-millers? If each of my bloggers has to walk lock-step with me on everything, including the interpretation of a very difficult, complex, highly debated field such as the historical significance of events over the course of twenty five years in the middle of the 20th century in the Middle East, why bother having team blogs to begin with? I should just get rid of everyone and write only my own blogs. But that would not enrich the blog, let alone my readers, and I think most folks can see that there is no need for such a level of lock-step agreement on all things.
Hays is simply unfair in his attempted response to Jamin. It is scatter-gunning, it is not sober, fair, researched writing. It is "you sound like a CNN reporter" rather than "here is a more sound, historical way of seeing those events." I do not find it at all compelling, personally, and I claim no expertise in that period of history of the world! Genetic fallacies and playing to the crowd is not how disagreement between Christians should be handled.
It seems that Hays leaps from the reality that Islam as a whole has a long history of anti-Jewish behavior, one which is easily documented today in Palestinian broadcasting and writing, for example, to the unfounded conclusion that there has never been any period of time in all of history where Muslims and Jews lived in relative peace in close proximity with each other. This is part of the problem with this kind of thinking: it is far too easy to provide counter-documentation of where there have been enlightened, unbigoted Muslims (and Muslim leaders) who did not follow this path. The reality is, of course, that Islam is not a monolith, either today, or in the past. Is there violence against Jews based solely upon a deep and abiding presence of religiously inspired bigotry amongst some Muslims based upon, say, particular hadith stories? Of course there is. Do all Muslims know these stories, or act upon them? No, of course not. It is far, far too easy to paint with broad strokes and in the process put ourselves in an untenable position.
But the main reason I am addressing this (Jamin is free to respond to criticisms of his own work) is because Steve Hays chose to drag me into this fight since Jamin is one of my contributors. Despite the fact that I have obviously given clear evidence of allowing differing opinions to be expressed even on the blog, and have never, ever asked any of my bloggers to modify or change what they produce personally on their own blogs, Mr. Hays purposefully titled his entry in such a way as to demand my involvement. You do not make reference to "Allahu Akbar and Omega Ministries" and expect me to just smile and sit idly by. I have not invested the past five plus years of my life in the study of Islam so as to allow the name of my ministry to be besmirched in such a cavalier and, quite honestly, silly fashion. In the main body of his entry he concluded with this incredible statement: "Perhaps AOMIN should team up with CAIR, or maybe change its name to Allahu Akbar and Omega Ministries." We all know Hays has a penchant for over-the-top sarcasm, but this isn't even slightly humorous because it is so far removed from reality as to rob it of any weight it might have had. Remember, this is a blog article allegedly about an article that was not even posted at the A&O website. There is obviously no reason for the inclusion of such a statement outside of "I want to stir the pot and start a war." Sad, very sad, in light of how much Steve could be doing that would be very positive and useful (being the bright guy he is).
In response to an immediate challenge to his blog he gave forth his real argumentation in support of throwing my ministry into the pot:
What I find curious is the split-personality policy of AOMIN on Islam. What they give with one hand, they take back with the other.
On the one hand White debates Muslims and defends Acts17 against persecution.
On the other hand, teammate Hubner is constantly reciting the Hamas narrative.
What White builds up during the day, Hubner tears down at night.
Yes, AOMIN does need to make up its mind about the role of Islam in geopolitics.
It is absurd to accuse Jamin of being a Hamas shill, first of all. Jamin is not "constantly reciting the Hamas narrative." Let's lay that one aside immediately as it is simply not worthy of further discussion. Let's focus on two things. First, is Jamin tearing down at night what I am building up during the day? And secondly, is it actually necessary for us to adopt some kind of view of the role of Islam in geopolitics?
In answer to the first, in all of my debates with Muslims, in all of my defense of the gospel, I have never once made this a matter of "geopolitics." In fact, I have denied that politics has anything to do with what I am saying. While my Muslim friends have attempted to drag even the topic of the deity of Christ into the realm of politics, I have refused to allow this to happen. The deity of Christ is true in any political context you can name, and it was true before 1948 just as it is true after 1948. While I have often acknowledged and taught that Islam is a politico-religious system, or a religio-political system (depending on its relative proportion in a population), and while I fully understand that Islam cannot separate itself from the essentially political elements of its own underlying foundation, Christianity is completely different. The gospel transcends all geopolitical boundaries and is for all people at all times and in all places. Christianity does not require the importation of any political, cultural, or governmental system, again, unlike Islam. This is part and parcel of my presentation, and the role of politics, the existence and rights of Israel as a secular state, etc., have never had anything to do with my defense of the faith or my criticism of Islam. So on any logical basis, anything Jamin Hubner has said about the secular state of Israel, world history in the 20th century, etc., has nothing at all to do with my apologetic regarding Islam. Further, I challenge the implied assertion that speaking to the issue of whether the secular state of Israel has theological import or ramifications would undercut meaningful Islamic apologetics. Truly, the arguments I am presenting regarding, for example, the Qur'an, were true in 1947 just as they were true in 1949, and nothing that happened by United Nations action in 1948 could possibly change any of that. It simply makes no sense whatsoever to make the connection Hays has made.
Secondly, Hays' view of Islam is way too simplistic when he speaks of taking a position on the "role of Islam in geopolitics." Would he accept someone speaking of the "role of Christianity in geopolitics"? I would hope not! What "Christianity" are we referring to? Rome? Eastern Orthodoxy? The Anglican Church? Evangelicalism? What? Islam is no more of an undifferentiated monolith than Christianity is, so, what kind of Islam does Mr. Hays want me to take a stand on? Sunni? What kind? Salafi? Wahhabi? Which legal school shall we address? Or are we talking about the Shia? Which of its myriad of sub-categories shall we talk about? Twelvers, perhaps? The fact is we can talk about the role various forms of Islam play in particular nations and particular regions. We can talk about how Salafi Islam, wedded intimately to its particular understanding of authority and hadith, is limited in the possible spectrum of political expressions it can allow, etc. All of that is interesting, and relevant, but it is no more something upon which I, or my ministry, have to "take a position" on than the various factions in the Vatican would be.
It all boils down to this: Steve Hays doesn't like Jamin Hubner, nor his views (that's obvious). So, for some reason, he is now trying to hold me responsible for the views Jamin expresses on his own blog, as if the foundational assumption has to be that everyone who writes for my blog must walk in lock-step with my views on all things. If I will not publicly excoriate Hubner for taking a position Hays finds to be in error (and evidently to be reprehensible), then I am to be criticized for such a failure. Of course, fair minded folks realize that Christians must associate with people who have differing views on all sorts of things for the obvious reason that none of us agree perfectly on all things! If I were to invest the time (which I promise you I will not) to investigate everything Steve Hays has ever written, would I find differences between him and say Jason Engwer, who also writes on Steve's blog? Is there perfect agreement in all things between all people on Triablogue? If not, why the double standard?
I am very disappointed that Steve Hays has chosen to go down this path. I think I have explained why he is in error to do so more than clearly enough. I have set the record straight, and I leave it to truth-honoring and truth-loving folks to decide for themselves.